"I'm a drag queen, darling not an extremist and I still say if Pakistanis had more self-respect, we'd be even more anti-American," says Ali Saleem. "I'm not speaking religion; it's common sense."
I have to say it's a little bewildering to search for the newsworthiness of the reflections of a Pakastani crossdresser whose chief claim to fame is that he once did a drag impersonation of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. There's the stated point of the Post's series, which is to report on the popular view of America from around the world, but that's all I can see.
Well, fair enough. With this in mind, Saleem still makes several commendable points:
- American involvement in other countries has brought a lot of grief to them. I'm sure he overstates this when he says it has brought "nothing but sadness to Pakistan," but our country has a long history of promoting its interests at the expense of other nations and their people.
In terms of supporting corrupt governments, we're guilty as charged. We oppose Castro in Cuba, and rightly so, but we were the key supporter of Batista, whose inhumane cruelty to political prisoners was legendary. In Haiti we supported Francois Duvalier and then his son Jean Claude for years, and in Iraq we supported Saddam Hussein when it suited us to do so.
Today we also support a number of dictatorships throughout the world, including some brutally repressive ones in the Middle East that have a stranglehold on information and that will cut your head off if you have a Bible or convert to Christianity. Some, like Musharaff, we support because they have aided us in the war on terror; others we support because they have oil or other resources we value; and still others we support because they oppose a common foe of ours. The reasons for this support vary, but when we shore up a tyrant, we become to an extent culpable for their actions.
And yet we still lay claim to the moral high ground when we decide to remove dictators who don't suit our national interests, even when that removal throws their country into turmoil and ruin, like Iraq has suffered. (And this says nothing about trade policies that exploit workers in other nations to maintain or build wealth here.)
- Ultimately the deliverance of Pakistan and other countries that are dissatisfied with Western influence lies within their own societies. This, I thought, was absolutely brilliant of him: It's not enough to complain about bad Western influences, you also need to find what is good within your own society and feed it. Maintaining and building a sense of pride in a nation's art, culture, literature and philosophy can lead to a tremendous renaissance that will raise the country's profile and boost the fortunes of everyone in it.
- Homosexuality and the gay culture are not a Western phenomenon. I know it's a popular thing, particularly in hard-line religious circles of all stripes and hues, to point to the growing openness of the gay subculture in America as a sign of Western decadance, but homosexuals and the gay culture are found throughout the world and throughout history. There's been no shortage of valuable contributions to society both Western and not, by men and women who were openly gay or bisexual.
It shouldn't be that hard for the advocates of Pakistan's culture to find ways to spread it through American media.